Fort Meade (United States) (AFP) - An Iraqi held at Guantanamo Bay's top-secret camp 7 faces a possible life sentence after a US military judge charged him with five counts of war crimes on Wednesday. The United States accuses Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, 53, of being a senior Al-Qaeda military commander alongside Osama bin Laden and of having sponsored deadly attacks against Americans and their allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The White House is facing a political backlash over the release from the detention facility at Guantanamo of five senior Taliban figures in exchange for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl.
A member of Bowe Bergdahl's unit in Afghanistan told Congress Wednesday that the recently released US Army sergeant "wanted to hunt and kill" Taliban, even while telling relatives he aimed to help Afghans. Last month's transfer of five hardened Taliban operatives from Guantanamo prison in exchange for Bergdahl's freedom has triggered a political row in Washington, with Republicans accusing President Barack Obama of giving away too much in the swap. Critics have pointed to reports Bergdahl may have deserted his Afghanistan base on 30 June 2009 after growing frustrated with US policy. Bergdahl was a "good soldier" during military training in California, but shortly after arriving in Afghanistan he started voicing disagreements with the way missions were conducted, Full said.
A US judge rebuked Argentina on Wednesday for seeking to evade an order to make good on its debts and for labelling hedge funds who hold the country's bonds "extortionists". Last year Judge Thomas Griesa ordered Argentina to pay the hedge funds and this week the Supreme Court declined to re-examine his position, infuriating Argentina. Griesa branded President Cristina Kirchner's apparent plan to avoid paying them illegal. Kirchner said late Monday that the country could not pay the hedge funds, who refused to join a restructuring of the country's debt and want to be paid the full $1.3 billion face value of the bonds they hold.
Washington has not seen any major disruption in Iraqi oil supplies amid a militant assault on a large refinery, a US official said Wednesday, but warned Iraq may have to import fuel for its own needs. Oil markets were spooked Wednesday as militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacked the Baiji oil refinery, north of Baghdad, as they pressed an assault which has already seen them capture a large swath of northern Iraq. Analysts said a takeover of Baiji by the rebels could pressure domestic fuel supply in northern Iraq. "Iraqi authorities may need to import domestic fuel from neighboring countries," Psaki said.
Campinas (Brazil) (AFP) - Nigeria's footballers said Wednesday that a bomb attack that killed at least 21 people watching a World Cup game in their country gives them added determination to do well in Brazil. The bomb exploded in the midst of a crowd watching Brazil play Mexico on a giant screen in Damataru, capital of Yobe state, on Tuesday night. Nigeria's players held a minute's silence before they started training under the floodlights in Campinas, outside Sao Paulo, on Wednesday. "It's unfortunate, especially as it concerns football," said team media officer Ben Alaiya of the attack.
Four former heads of the US Environmental Protection Agency who served under Republican presidents urged lawmakers Wednesday to stop bickering over whether climate change is real, and start finding solutions. In the absence of legislation to curb fossil fuel burning, President Barack Obama earlier this month urged the EPA to set carbon pollution standards for power plants that would slash carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030. Obama's proposal, his most ambitious yet against climate change, also called for increasing global cooperation to curb pollution and for US financial incentives for renewable energy. California Democrat Barbara Boxer said critics call her a "job killer" each time she backs a clean environment initiative.
The Federal Reserve slashed its 2014 growth forecast for the US economy after the rough winter but kept policy on hold on Wednesday, showing faith in a modest rebound. Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the economy had picked up after the first quarter's contraction, but she also downplayed a pickup of inflation as any sign of a need to tighten monetary policy. As expected the Federal Open Market Committee cuts its stimulus program back by another $10 billion, to $35 billion a month, compared with $85 billion in December before the taper began. It also left the benchmark federal funds interest rate at 0-0.25 percent, where it has been since the end of 2008, arguing that the economy still needs such extraordinary accommodation into next year, when the rate is expected to rise.
The United States called on Cuba on Wednesday to allow an imprisoned American contractor to travel home to attend his mother's funeral as a humanitarian gesture. Alan Gross, 65, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Cuba in 2011 after being convicted of "acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state" for allegedly distributing communications equipment as a contractor for the US aid agency USAID. Washington has repeatedly called for his release, and on Wednesday State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki offered "our deepest and sincerest condolences" following the news that his 92-year-old mother Evelyn had died after a long battle with lung cancer. Cuban officials also offered "heartfelt condolences" to Gross's family and repeated an offer to resolve the situation by reopening the cases of three Cubans serving long jail terms in the US after being convicted of spying.
The United States fully supports Colombia's efforts to reach a deal to end Latin America's longest civil war, Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected Sunday in a runoff seen as a referendum on his bid to end the 50-year-old conflict. "As I told you here in Bogota last spring, just as the United States has supported Colombian leaders on the battlefield over the years, we fully support you at the negotiating table," Biden said at a news conference alongside Santos. The Colombian government is trying to reach peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and smaller National Liberation Army (ELN), which have 8,000 and 2,500 fighters respectively.
US President Barack Obama faced demands for a new US strategy on the deepening crisis in Iraq on Wednesday, as the White House insisted he had not ruled out Baghdad's request for air strikes. But there were no signs that renewed military action was imminent in a war that Obama had declared at an end, as the president mulled a range of options drawn up by his advisors. The White House, pushing back on reports that said that Obama had decided that no strikes would take place immediately, said that he had yet to discount direct military action. "The only thing the president has ruled out is sending troops back into combat in Iraq, but he continues to consider other options," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — If President Barack Obama is mingling with inventors, sooner or later there has to be a robot. On Wednesday, it was Russell, the 17-foot electric giraffe towering in the South Lawn of the White House, a symbol of the quirky and clever creations Obama wanted to showcase on a day devoted to innovation.
The Federal Reserve slashed its 2014 growth forecast for the US economy Wednesday to 2.1-2.3 percent after a deeper-than-expected contraction in the first quarter of the year. In March the Fed forecast growth at 2.8-3.0 percent, before the depth of the winter setback, partially due to extremely harsh weather across much of the country, was known.